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Worker injured by collapsed Vortex ride given no safety equipment

In the early hours of Oct. 28, a worker hired by Powers Great American Midways to help tear down the stands and rides at the end of the North Carolina State Fair was crushed when part of one of the Vortex rides collapsed. At approximately 3:30 a.m., a four-seat compartment fell from the ride, breaking his back in three places and fracturing his left femur and several other bones. His family says the man underwent emergency surgery on Nov. 1 and was still in serious condition the next day.

According to the Charlotte Observer, the 32-year-old man and several members of his family had taken on the tear-down work as they had for several years. Two of his relatives were working nearby when the tragic accident occurred.

His sister-in-law, who was in the parking lot, told reporters that she heard a pop and a boom and turned toward the rides. She saw the top of the Vortex swaying (not the Vortex where 5 fairgoers were previously injured), and noticed a dangling cable where the seats should have been.

Disturbingly, the woman told reporters that Powers Great American had not provided the tear-down workers with any safety training or personal protection equipment.

She also said that no one in her family has been contacted about the accident, even though two of them witnessed the accident. She is disappointed not to have heard from either Powers Great American or the North Carolina Department of Labor, whose occupational safety and health division is tasked with investigating workplace accidents.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Labor said that the division is indeed investigating but would not comment as the investigation is still pending. Powers Great American did not return the Observer’s request for a comment.

The man’s sister-in-law said that she, the injured man, and the two other relatives had each worked at the state fair for the past several years, although she doesn’t plan to do so again. Their pay on the day of the accident amounted to $40 each.

A workplace injury can happen in any occupation, but manual laborers are especially vulnerable. However, the previous accident on the other vortex may indicate that the ride operator’s negligence played a role in the ride’s collapse. If that is the case, the injured man may have the option of filing a third-party claim against him in addition to workers’ compensation.

Source: Charlotte Observer, “NC State Fair worker undergoes emergency surgery five days after accident,” Andrew Kenney, Nov. 2, 2013

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